Sixty years ago, stimulated by competition with the Soviet Union, the United States founded NASA and embarked on a voyage that would bring the Americans to the moon within a decade.
Since then, the US Space Agency has witnessed glorious achievements and crushing failures in its efforts to expand the boundaries of space exploration, including a fatal launch ramp fire in 1
Now NASA is struggling to redefine itself in an increasingly crowded field of international space agencies and commercial interests, with the goal of returning to space.
These bold goals provide rhetoric, but experts worry the money is simply not there to reach the timeline to reach the moon in the next decade and Mars in the 2030s.
And NASA is unable to send astronauts into space – a capacity that was lost in 2011 when the space shuttle program ended. as planned, after 30 years – is a lasting blemish on the agency's stellar image.
As US private industries toiled on new crew spaceships, NASA still has to pay $ 80 million per seat for US astronauts to ride t
How It Began
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched with Sputnik 1 the first satellite into space, while the attempts of the USA failed miserably.
The US government was already working to reach space, but mainly under the guise of the military.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower appealed to Congress to establish a separate civil space agency to better focus on space exploration.
He signed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act in Law of July 29, 1958.
NASA opened its doors in October 1958 with approximately 8,000 employees and a budget of $ 100 million.
The Soviets won another important part of the space race in April 1961, when Yuri Gagarin was the first person orbiting the Earth.
A month later, John F. Kennedy revealed plans to land a man on the moon by the end of the year.
"No single space project at this time will be more impressive for humanity or more important for long-term space exploration, and none will be so difficult or expensive to achieve," said the US President.
The Apollo program was born.
In 1962, the astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. In 1969, NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon.
American astronauts of the era were national heroes – military pilots with the combination of brains, guts and grains that became famous as "The Right Stuff," the title of the classic Tom Wolfe book.
Armstrong's words as he set foot on the lunar surface – "a small human step, a giant leap for humanity" – have been heard by millions around the world.
Apollo was a one-sided demonstration of national power, "recalled John Logsdon, emeritus professor at the Space Policy Institute of George Washington University.
" It was Kennedy's decision to use the space program as an instrument of geopolitical competition that NASA assigned he said to AFP.
In total, five percent of the state budget went to NASA in the Apollo era.
Now, NASA gets about $ 18 billion a year less than half a percent of the federal budget, "and it's no longer the same national policy tool," said Logsdon.
More glorious days followed in the 1980s with the Birth of the NASA Shuttle Program, a bus-sized reusable spaceship that sent astronauts into space, and finally z ur International Space Station, which began operation in 1998.
But what is NASA today?
President Donald Trump campaigned for a return to the moon and demanded a Moon Gate that would allow a steady stream of spaceships and humans to visit the Moon and serve as a jump point for Mars.
Trump has also called for the creation of a "Space Force," a sixth branch of the military focused on defending US interests.
NASA has long been regarded as a world leader in space innovation, the international field is well over sixty years ago.
"Now you have something like 70 countries involved in space activity in one way or another," said Logsdon.
Instead of opposing international space agencies, "the focus shifted to cooperation" cost and speed innovation, said Teasel Muir-Harmony, curator of the National Aerospace Museum
& # 39; How can the NASA exploit that? & # 39;
NASA Administrator Jim Briddenstine recently said in a panel He is eager to work with other countries seeking space.
He mentioned the possibility of strengthening cooperation with China and how he recently traveled to Israel to fulfill commercial interests working on a lunar lander. 19659005] Bridenstine said the reason for his visit was to find out, "how are you, what are you doing and is there a way NASA can take advantage of it?"
NASA is deviating from low earth orbit and wants to leave the space station after 2024 commercial interests. It invests millions in seed capital to help private companies such as SpaceX and Boeing build capsules that will bring people into space in the years to come
In this environment, Bridenstine said that figuring out what NASA does, in contrast to that, what it buys as a service from commercial providers will be "one of the fundamental challenges I will face during my tenure."
Bridenstine said Trump's budget proposals for NASA had been "very generous."
With a view to a crew mission to the moon in just five years, NASA plans to provide around $ 10 billion from its nearly $ 20 billion budget for 2019 Moonlight Exploration
The predecessor of Bridenstine at the helm of NASA, the retired astronaut Charles Bolden, warns to repeat the errors of the shuttle era when the United States ended its human exploration program without end "We can not tolerate such a gap," Bolden said.
"It is really crucial for NASA to facilitate the success of commercial units that take control in low Earth orbit". 4009 kilometers above the planet.
"And then for NASA, what makes them so good. Be the leader in the lunar orbit."
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